Original Article

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 83-98

First online:

Story Recall and Narrative Coherence of High-Functioning Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Joshua J. DiehlAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical & Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester
  • , Loisa BennettoAffiliated withDepartment of Clinical & Social Sciences in Psychology, University of Rochester Email author 
  • , Edna Carter YoungAffiliated withDepartment of Surgery, University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry

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Previous research has found few quantitative differences between children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and well-matched controls in the length, complexity, and structure of their narratives. Researchers have noted, however, that narratives of children with ASDs have an unusual and idiosyncratic nature. This study provides an analysis of narratives in 17 children with high-functioning ASDs and 17 typically developing children matched on age, gender, language abilities, and cognitive abilities. We examined story recall and narrative coherence. The study revealed no group differences in story length or syntactic complexity. Children with ASDs also did not differ from controls in their use of the gist of a story to aid recall, or in their sensitivity to the importance of story events. Children with ASDs did, however, produce narratives that were significantly less coherent than the narratives of controls. Children with ASDs appeared less likely to use the gist of the story to organize their narratives coherently. These findings are discussed with regard to their relationship to other cognitive and linguistic difficulties of children with ASDs.

autism spectrum disorders language narratives coherence pragmatics